Travel SOS: when is the best time to book a cruise?

Gemma wants to know when is the best time to book a cruise.

woman booking a holiday online

Gemma has been saving for a South Pacific cruise and she wants to know when is the best time to book. Today, in Travel SOS, Leon shares his tips.

Q: Gemma
I’ve been saving my money for a cruise and, as I’ve never been on one before, I have no idea when is the best time of year to travel and when I should book to get the best deal. I’m thinking about doing a South Pacific trip, maybe to Vanuatu, Fiji or Hawaii. Can you help me?

A: Well Gemma, there are a few theories on this one, so let’s get the time of the year out of the way first. Most travel agents say that it’s best to steer clear of school holidays. So, February and November would be the best months weather-wise. If you’re not too fussed about a slightly cooler cruise, then March is also a good time to go.

October may be the best time for you to cruise, because the dry season in the South Pacific runs from May to October. You may also get a killer cruise deal in October, because it’s Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Cruise Month. CLIA’s annual Plan a Cruise Month is a global initiative and. throughout October, travel agents and cruise lines showcase cruise holidays to suit every style and budget.

woman on deck of cruise ship

Now, as far as saving you money: most agents say that you’ll get the best deal as soon as a cruise is announced. And before you start to thinking “sure, that’s what they would say”, here’s the rationale: the sooner you book the more likely you are to get exactly what you want. You’ll be able to book the early dining times, the best staterooms and the best location on the ship. So, if getting what you want is a priority, then 12 to 18 months out is the sweet spot.

There are still some advantages to booking closer to a departure date, and if you don’t mind risking a room under the nightclub, you can save a bit by doing so.

When a cruise is announced, some agents will bulk buy several staterooms and offer them at a competitive price, maybe bundling them with upgrades, onboard credit, spa treatment vouchers or beverage packages. But if these agents don’t sell their allotment, some will have an arrangement with the cruise line that they can give the rooms back. This usually occurs 90, 60 and 30 days out from the departure date. So, these are good dates to watch.

And even if you’ve already booked and put a deposit on your cruise, keep an eye on these dates and the resulting deals. Sometimes it can be cheaper for you to forego your deposit and rebook a cruise at a lower rate. And, if you see a better deal and you still haven’t paid your deposit, some cruise lines will reduce your fare to the new low rate. Also, last-minute bookings usually come with some pretty nifty upgrades, because a loaded boat is better than a half-empty vessel.

Another date to watch is around six to seven weeks before the departure date, as this is when final payments are due.

And if you’ve had fun on your cruise, watch out for booking agents onboard the boat. Sometimes the best deals are made directly from the cruise lines, who want your repeat business and will offer you incredibly low cruise fares, room upgrades, reduced deposits, significant onboard credits, cut-priced excursions and gratuities. 



    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st May 2017
    So much depends on your own preferences. If you think an interior cabin would be too claustrophobic then you need to book as early as possible to be sure of getting an ocean view (ie a window) or a balcony. If an interior cabin does not concern you then leave it a bit later to take advantage of specials. It can be a bit of a juggling act.
    One hint if you go for an interior cabin. Each cabin has a TV and one channel is usually a live feed from the bridge looking out over the bow, the bow cam. As you go to bed leave the TV on bow cam with the volume down, when you wake in them morning the TV is like looking out a window. At night the bow cam is dark so won't disturb your sleep.
    Enjoy you cruise.
    Ted Wards
    22nd May 2017
    I regularly cruise to the this area, by far the best time to sail is May - June when the sea is like glass and the weather just beautiful.
    As for getting the best deal, sign up to all the cruise companies emails, or groups on facebook. Go to the travel expo's, make friends with travel agents and you will get better deals.
    Never book premium cruises such as Christmas, new year, the special event ones like Melbourne Cup etc. The shorter the cruise the more expensive it is, they pay more terminal charges and taxes.
    Re-positioning cruises are fantastic, they are shifting the ship to another region in their off season e.g Asia to Australia in September/October. They are cheaper and sometimes the best cruises to go on.
    Id avoid school holiday cruises like the plague unless you have children, even then Id still book other times and take them out of school.
    You will save heaps of money if you do your homework.
    Now on European river cruises I saved $4000 by going early bird, I'm a solo traveler plus I made two agencies battle it out and saved another $3000 so that's $7000 I saved. Its worth talking to seasoned travelers because they are the ones with the genuine tips.
    Ted Wards
    22nd May 2017
    With the room you have to look at how much time your going to spend in it, whether you like to have the option of sitting on your own balcony, or living it up in a suite. I go interior because Im only in the room to sleep and shower/change so I go cheaper and spend my money on other luxuries like spa treatments and so on.
    22nd May 2017
    I think much depends on the cruise line as to when you should book and what sort of bargains you can expect. We often travel into the South Pacific with P&O abd our best deals by far have been last minute bookings. We've just returned (three days ago) from a 7 day Pacific Hopper, for which we paid $629. This was an excellent price, booked 5 weeks before the cruise. Yet we spoke to someone on the cruise who had booked four days before sailing, and her price was $429!! We've just checked next week's sailing on this cruise, and found the price of $479 !! (We're sorely tempted!!!). All of this speaks for itself - leave it to the last minute, and you will get the best price. As mentioned in the article and comments, there are of course other considerations than price. But that is certainly our main consideration.

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